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Living in South Berkeley, CA
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Living in South Berkeley, CA
Living on Ashby Ave. near Sacramento?
I'd like to hear experiences of families living on Ashby,
specifically around Sacramento street. We are considering a
move to a house on Ashby near there, and my husband is
hesitant. I tend to think it wouldn't be so bad, besides
the inconvenience of living on a busy street (noise and
traffic). But is there crime? Do you feel safe living
there? What has your experience been like living on this
specific stretch of Ashby? Ashby bound
Cannot recommend. Ashby is not just a busy street, it is a
state highway. Street parking is prohibited during rush hour
on weekdays to allow an additional lane to become available
in the rush direction. There have been multiple shootings at
the intersection of Ashby & Sacramento in recent years. Much
of the criminal activity is actually along Sacramento,
rather than Ashby, so if you are talking Ashby closer to MLK
(and BART), or closer to San Pablo (and Berkeley Bowl),
other factors would mitigate the traffic aspect.
I'm speaking as someone who lives in and loves the
neighborhood. If you can find a place that is not directly
on Ashby (even just off it on a side street), you will find
lots of things to love about the area. neighbor
I used to live close by to this intersection and drive
Alcatraz quite a bit. I would not say that this is the
safest place to live, in fact it is the only place where I
have ever seen a police officer with shotguns drawn. I moved
there from a sketchy area of Philadelphia where murders and
stabbings happened in front of my house and still say that
this area of Berkeley is worse, in the way that you will be
watched and a target, compared to the violence in Philly
being targeted to those involved in nefarious pursuits. Just
my two cents. AA
We used to live right by there and did not like it much.
We really disliked being on such a busy street not for the
noise (we aren't bothered by noise) but because we couldn't
let the kids play in the front yard because of the traffic
and there is zero sense of community on a busy street.
The foot traffic that goes by there is mixed- quite a bit of
homeless people and some drug addicts esp on Fridays who go
to the drug and alcohol clinic on Sac close to Ashby on
Fridays. But this isn't too much different than a lot of
Berkeley but I think it's more since it is a busy street.
The new quiet street we live on does not get the same degree
of shady foot traffic.
Our house was never broken into but the house beside ours
was. That happens everywhere in Berkeley though.
Our yard was broken into 3 times so we eventually started
locking it. We saw the person breaking in once- looked like
someone homeless or a drug addict. Despite all this I didn't
feel unsafe there really.
But I will say I am so glad not to live there anymore
though! Best of luck. -Happy to be on a quiet street
Re: Thinking of moving from the Peninsula to Berkeley
I own a home in South Berkeley, South of Ashby. It's
interesting to read the pretentious comments about our
neighborhood. I have a lot of great neighbors that have
lived in their home for decades, even thirty years. There
are many different kinds of people, young families, singles,
senior citizens and everything in between. We are all
colors of the rainbow. On my street in particular, two
homes have been renovated by developers and have really
improved the neighborhood character. It's getting better.
I'm not in denial about the crime in Berkeley, and it's
certainly not isolated to our neighborhood- but I live here
happily, by choice, and have never found a syringe in my
Love your street/neighborhood in S or W Berkeley?
We are a family with 3 children and want to buy a small
house in Berkeley but can only afford in the south,
southwest, or west areas. I'd love to hear from people who
love their specific street (ie- the 2500 block of X street).
We've recently realized how much difference good neighbors
can make in our quality of life, and don't want to buy a
house before hearing where the good streets/neighborhoods
are in the south and west areas of berkeley. We will likely
buy west of MLK, north of Alcatraz, east of 4th, and south
of university....a big area, so tell me why you love your
block or neighborhood and help narrow our search! Future
We have lived in South Berkeley 19 years. We moved to the
1600 block of Derby @ McGee when our children were 3 and 5
years. They went through the BUSD system just fine and both
have graduated from college.
I used to get angry at the sad, sympathetic looks I got from
people when I told them where I lived. I know now they are
the ones missing out! We have a great neighborhood, mixed
in age, gender, and ethnicity. Most of our neighbors have
lived here longer than we have. Over the years I had a
chance to get to know many neighbors who came here during
WWII to work in the shipyards. They had great stories to
tell, both happy and thoughtful. We can walk to downtown
Berkeley in under 15 minutes. We have the Derby St.
Farmer's Market every Tuesday. We are w/in walking distance
of two Bart stations, two libraries and a firehouse. We
will be easy to get to should there be a catastrophic event.
I feel fortunate to call this area my home. Happy in South
Six years ago, before we moved into our current neighborhood
(Grant/Parker/Carleton in South Berkeley), our real estate
agent called it a 'transitional neighborhood'. But we loved
the house, the street and curb appeal, talked to the police
about crime reports, drove through the neighborhood at night
and finally decided that there will always be a small risk
Today we couldn't be happier. In the past years, many new
families have moved into the block/neighborhood, they all
take very good care of their houses, they spend time in
their front yards, kids meet to sell lemonade and cookies in
front of houses, at the weekends the streets are used to
play basketball, to bike, to run remote controlled cars or
to just chat with neighbors.
However, just a few blocks down South - around Ashby - it's
a totally different story. I still feel it's a little unsafe
to walk the dog there at night, I see more police cars
patrolling and cannot believe how different the climate is
compared to the street we live in. In Berkeley you will
probably find many streets that you find beautiful, safe and
child-friendly - just a stone's throw away from less
Good luck finding the right neighborhood for YOU!
Happy in South Berkeley
I live in sw berkeley one block south of ashby and 2 blocks
west of sacramento. When we were looking to buy a house, I
was pleasantly surprised! Since we bought our house two
years ago, several more families have moved in on my street.
And I'm continuing meeting other families that live within a
few blocks from us. This neighborhood is a mix and that's
why I love it. Every year, families get together in the
neighborhood and throw a big Halloween block party. It's
close to berkeley bowl west, ashby bart, San Pablo park, and
freeway and oh yeah, Biodiesel station. I think the houses
here are fairly priced since it's not a gentrified area,
well not yet.
I'd recommend driving by the areas you are interested in at
various times and days to get a feel of the neighborhood.
We walked around with our kid and dog in tow many times to
get a feel for the neighborhood. I particularly look at
cars to see there were carseats attached to them. LOL
Good Luck! You can email me if you have specific questions
or want specific street names.
I was hoping to get some feedback from other families on how
they like living in South Berkeley, particularly near the
Ashby BART and Malcolm X school. We've heard great things
about the school, but when I look at the crime maps, it's
clear that more crime occurs in this area then others in
Berkeley. We are looking to buy, and are considering a home
in this area - do you live there? And, do you feel safe
having your young children there? We have a 6 month old son
and two dogs that we walk regularly. Thanks for your
We've lived in our South Berkeley home since the mid- 1990's
and we've found the area to be very safe. Our home is on the
north side of Ashby, however; and some say that things can
get dicey south of Ashby -- as far as home- ownership goes.
Nevertheless, I walk south of Ashby frequently and have
never had problems. We have a 4 year old toddler boy, and
living in South Berkeley has been great for our family.
We're 3 blocks from Ashby BART and 3 blocks from Berkeley
Bowl -- we walk practically everywhere! Also, we love
living so close to Grove Park: we play baseball/tee-ball
with our baby out there; we hit tennis balls on the courts
with him and catch basketball games at the rec center. In
the afternoon, the socccer/baseball field becomes an
impromptu 'dog park'. We have a small dog and have met great
folks there; people are really good about cleaning up after
their pets & having the dogs 'play nice'. Our particular
neighborhood also has a Block Party about 3 times a year: we
block off the street, share food, get the kids a jumpy
house. Good folks in South Berkeley. Anon
We've lived a few blocks north of the Ashby BART station for
almost four years now. Safety is relative, but we
definitely feel safe in our home and have not been victims
of any crime while we've lived here. We love our
neighborhood, and there are lots of families around here
that make it a great place to raise kids. I would caution
you not to move here on the basis of getting into Malcolm X,
though - it is currently divided between the southeast and
central school zones, and you would probably be more likely
to get into one of the other schools in the southeast. Not
that there's anything wrong with those schools, but you
should know what you're getting into. South Berkeley dad
I'm not sure about below MLK, but I lived above MLK in the
same area (Emerson St) and liked the neighborhood very much.
I walked my dog everywhere and never felt unsafe.
Re: New job in SF - where's a sunny place to live?
I only have a few mins so I can't get into the whole where
to live but I can tell you we live near Ashby Bart - and it
is not a student area at all - the students mostly live near
campus. I work in the financial district and my door to door
commute (walk, bart, walk) is 32 mins total so very
manageable. We love Berkeley -it is the burbs but still lots
of access to SF, theater etc if you still want that. So I'd
say its fairly urban as suburbs go, particularly for the bay
area. good luck with the move! Berkeley fan
I would not live near Ashby BART with little kids. When I
lived there a few years ago, there were muggings outside my
window, and people would go to the door or tap on the window
asking for handouts, etc. Plus, the walkable shops are not
that close or that great. Some people will surely disagree,
but it would not be my choice. If I were you, I would look
near Rockridge in Oakland instead. It's a fun area, very
kid-friendly, sounds like a good match to your
self-description, and it is on the Pittsburgh/Bay Point BART
line rather than the RIchmond line. There are more trains,
and you never have to transfer, whereas on the Richmond
line, you sometimes have to transfer (direct service from SF
is intermittent), which would add time to your husband's
trip. I found that my commute from downtown to Rockridge
took half the time, or less, than it took me when I was in
the avenues in the City itself. anon
Re: Moving to Berkeley -- which neighborhood?
I lived in South Berkeley all through my daughter's elementary
and middle schools years.
For the most part I was very happy there, though there are some rough parts that I
Due to the economics of
buying a house in the Bay Area, one of the parts of Berkeley with a very high
concentration of new families is South Berkeley. As recent as 10 years ago it wasn't
considered an option for many people but most of it has transformed and there are a
lot of benefits.
It's relatively affordable, it shaves off 20 to 30 minutes a day on commutes heading
to most of the job centers nearby, kids can bike, plenty of parks, Berkeley Bowl West
recently opened and is great, there are walking shops and restaurants (Dwight and San
Pablo or Dwight and Sacramento are of note) Two of the nicest shopping areas are
close (4th street and Emerybay) There are multiple high quality child care options in
the neighborhood and nearby.
We are moving to Berkeley later this year from Toronto, Canada. I heard
that there were some dangerous areas in South Berkeley. I was wondering
which part of South Berkeley we should avoid and more precisely if
Alcatraz between MLK and Sacramento was safe.
Define safe... and your habits, and who you are...
We have a couple of friends who live in the Malcolm X neighborhood, both
between Malcolm X School and Sacramento, between Ashby and Alcatraz. In one
household, the daughter walks home from the bus stop after middle school, so
far with no problems. The kids also play in the backyard, and with other
children on the block. However, when we were over there for a daytime bday
party, a young African-American woman had been shot (luckily a minor graze) on
With the other friend, we walk with our kids from her house to the stores --
we've never been bothered, and she walks around with her kids often (though
they are too young to walk around the neighborhood themselves); she also walks
from BART home including in the evening; and she bikes in the neighborhood.
I've felt a bit uneasy when we walk around because I see a number of
unemployed young men hanging out.
I realized that I've been assuming you are white, with small children. If you
are African-American, or Latino, or your children are teens, the question is
more complex. I've known several Af-Am or Latino teens (I work with teens) who
have been mugged, beat up and/or shot in that neighborhood.
Alcatraz between MLK and Sacramento is not the safest neighborhood. If you
want safe, aim north - North Berkeley, Monterey Market area, Albany,
Kensington. Or maybe Rockridge area if you want to stay south. Of course the
safer neighborhoods are also the most expensive.
Happy house hunting!
I think you can check out crime stats for that area on the Berkeley Police
website, however I would not recommend moving in to that neighborhood with
kids. I know there are pockets (specific blocks) that are great, safe with
well connected neighbors that keep tabs on what's going on, but there have
also been shootings in the last 6 months. It kind of depends on what your
tolerance for risk is. I would not live there personally, particularly coming
in from another city.
My wife and I moved to Emeryville which borders South berkeley from downtown
Philadelphia a few years ago. Where we lived in Philly crime happened all the
time, stabbings, muggings and worse. With that thick skin, South Berkely still
looks bad. No doubt coming from Toronto, you will be in for a shock if you
move to this area.
Actually, the first time I ever saw a policeman with a shotgun drawn was on
this stretch of Alcatraz-drug dealing is common. We looked at an apartment on
Alcatraz by MLK and the person moving out was just mugged coming home from
Not to scare you off, but North berkeley or Alameda may be your better bet.
Not an area of South Berkeley that I'd recommend. I do highly recommend the
San Pablo Park area and the nearby so-called Left Bank. If you aren't used to
inner urban issues, generally south of Ashby, west of MLK and the area south
of Dwight Way around Sacramento/California are neighborhoods that might be of
concern (these neighborhoods really vary block by block). South Berkeley is
technically south of Dwight Way to the Oakland border, bounded by Fulton to
the east and San Pablo to the west. That's a very large area and there are
quite a few distinct neighborhoods with varying degrees of
homeownership/stable renters - working class/middle class values (which isn't
necessarily linked to actual family income)-ethnic mix - safety concerns. You
really need to know the area/talk to those that do/check out yourself. Look
for nice yards, folks out working on yards/washing cars on the weekend, a
variety of kids of different ages playing outside, folks walking their dogs,
and of course - quiet night scene. Large rather run-down apartment complexes,
corner stores that sell alcohol, no sense that neighbors are out and about
being ''neighborly'' is a sign that there may be issues that are of concern.
Love my South Berkeley neighborhood
I wouldn't move to Alcatraz between MLK and Sacramento. Absolutely not a safe
neighborhood as far as I'm concerned. Would definitely not feel safe even
walking from my house to my car . . .
my husband and our now 3 1/2 yo daughter moved onto alcatraz avenue
between sacramento and idaho more than three years ago. we love our
house and love our neighbors and have never had a problem. i'm
disappointed to read so many responses from people encouraging you to
move to north berkeley. we do not want our daughter growing up in
north berkeley surrounded by people who look just like she does. here
in south berkeley we live in a very diverse neighborhood and i'm happy
to say that we know and like our neighbors and hang out with them on a
regular basis. please feel free to contact me if you would like more
info. rachel rachel
I just wanted to chime in about Rockridge being safe. It is most
definitely not ''safe'' if safe means lack of violent crime. We
thought it was safe because it is expensive. It has a high rate of
violent crime and the Oakland police are terribly understaffed. For
example, it takes them 30 minutes to respond to a violent mugging with
injuries and they don't take photos for evidence unless you are
murdered or raped. I would say go for N Berkeley, Albany, Alameda, or
Been mugged at gunpoint in Rockridge
My husband and I are hoping to move to the East Bay soon from the
city. We have a 6 month old baby. One area we're looking at is
South Berkeley, but we've heard mixed things about how safe it is.
Can anyone tell us what their experiences have been in this
neighborhood? Ideally, we'd like to find a neighborhood where we
feel safe walking with our baby during the day and taking him to the
park (Grove Park). If anyone can share their advice about South
Berkeley, we'd appreciate it! Thank you.
I have a toddler and a new baby, and I've lived in South Berkeley for two
years now (four blocks northwest of Grove Park). I'd say that safety and
how comfortable one feels on the streets here varies from block to block
and over time. In general I feel very safe in my neighborhood and areas
north, east, and west, and I love being in such close walking distance to
Berkeley Bowl (and decent walking distance to Shattuck businesses, the
central library, numerous tot parks, etc.). That said, I do head north
whenever I'm just out for a walk, to get to nicer neighborhoods, rather
than head south. Twice since we've moved in, drug dealers have set up for
a few weeks on our block. Then something happens (an arrest or a drive-by
shooting), and they move their activities elsewhere. There have been two
drive-by shootings on/near our block that I know of, including in the
daytime. Luckily no one was hit in these instances. I guess it should
freak me out more than it does; maybe I just feel unjustly safe. One time I came home around noon, and the police had
blockaded my block, and wouldn't let me go home. When I came back a few
hours later, they were gone. I never did find out what that instance was
about. Our front and back yards are fenced in, and I'm comfortable letting
my toddler play in either, with monitoring through an open door/window. In
terms of parks, I'm often put off by the vibes and grunginess at Grove
Park, but there are other great tot parks in walking distance: San Pablo
Park, Acton Park, and further away but still walkable when I'm in the
mood: Totland, Hearst Park, Willard Park. I would certainly have loved to
find a nice house we could afford in a neighborhood further north, even by
just a few blocks, but in general, I don't regret our choice to buy our
house here in South Berkeley.
Mostly content on the south side
We live 3 blocks north of Grove Park and think that this is a great
neighborhood. Somebody broke our car window back in May, but we have not
seen any ''threatening'' crime and feel safe at all hours. Of course, our
reference point is West Philadelphia, where we lived for 7 years
previously, but the truth is that crime is just not very common.
happy in South Berkeley
We bought a house in South Berkeley 2 1/2 years ago. There are things I
love and things I'd like to improve. I love my neighbors and there's a
lot of kids. In fact, my husband and I are expecting in February, as are
two other families on our block. It's not the quietest neighborhood but
not the most dangerous either. I don't go for walks at night but I feel
safe being home. If you'd like to talk more feel free to email me.
In addition to whatever advice you get here, and checking crime stats on
the police department's web page, you should also consider driving or
walking around the parts of Berkeley tha you are interested in and seeing
if you feel comfortable there. You can park your car and stroll to a park
or the library. Go to a grocery store or the pharmacy. Check it out on
weekdays and weekends. At mid-day, commute time and in evenings. If you
walk around with your child in a stroller and go to local playgorunds, I'm
sure you can meet folks and ask them what they like about their
neighborhood. Hope you like it!
Hi! We live on Grant St, a few blocks north of Grove Park. I am not sure
where exactly ''South Berkeley'' begins but some people refer to Dwight
Street as the border line. Before we moved to this part of town (from the
city) we did an extensive research about the living quality and safety in
this neighborhood, called police for their opinion about gang activities
and checked crime rates online. The fact is that crimes happen everywhere
(if in North Berkeley, Hills or South Berkeley) but that the number of
crimes are a little higher the closer you get to Oakland (it can also
change from block to block - just like it does in some parts of San
Francisco). When we looked at houses we always tried to talk to neighbors,
looked at surrounding houses and what condition they were in (taken care
of, neglected, etc.). This gave us a pretty good idea about the people
living there. While house hunting we even drove through the neighborhood
at night to see what was going on after dark. Th!
e street we live in is quiet and with mostly older residents who warmly
welcomed us and our two little kids who I take to the Grove Park on a
regular basis. I have never met unfriendly people or had safety concerns
since we moved here. However, I think it depends on ''how far south'' you
are looking to live and I'd recommend you to do your own research about
the street you are planning on living (check out www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/cvc
for crime statistic but make sure you compare that other parts of the town
show similar incidents). Hope this helps!
South Berkeley resident
South Berkeley isn't just one neighborhood but many. South Berkeley
includes the area south of Dwight Way to the Oakland border between Fulton
and San Pablo. In that area, there are alot of differences in density,
home ownership, income/education, access to amenities such as parks and
schools, crime (including prostitution), etc. I will say that very few
neighborhoods, if any, are actually dangerous, but have varying degrees of
quality of life issues, perhaps some blocks or individual houses with drug
problems, sometimes but rarely violence along corridors usually well known
by natives. I live in the San Pablo Park Neighborhood and feel VERY safe.
The City takes amazing care of the park that has tennis and basketball
courts, ball fields, playground/tot lot, BBQ/picnic areas, grassy areas,
and a recreation center. There's a small produce stand on
Tuesdays/Wednesdays as well. The park is well used by diverse groups -
white yuppies with toddlers at the tot lot, mostly Lati!
no soccer players, mostly black large birthday BBQ's complete with jump
houses, athletic leagues including being the practice field for the high
school baseball team, and lots of dog walkers and joggers of all
ethnicities/classes. Housing is virtually all single family housing -
mostly ownership. I feel safe coming home late at night, going to the
park during the day (and letting my kids go with friends at age 8 and up),
and never lock my door during the day. The park's head gardener and our
postman live in the neighbhorhood. Downside? Some prostitution on San
Pablo Avenue that creeps into the neighborhood (used condoms in the
gutters on occasion)and on some blocks (no more on ours thankfully) a
house that has problemmatic residents. Nowhere enough to impact the
entire neighborhood but maybe makes that particular block less than ideal
(noisy weekends, maybe some fairly low key drug dealing, rudeness).
Actually most of South Berkeley is like this, though common wisdom!
is that South Berkeley south of Ashby as well as along the California
Street corridor around Ward/Russell has the most problems.
To be within your comfort zone, get a sense of how well taken care front
yards are (and do you see neighbors working on their yards on the
weekends?), see if kids are playing outside, visit a night (especially on
weekends) and TALK to your future neighbors. Also, door/window grills
aren't necessary a sign of problems (unless EVERY HOUSE is barricaded to
the the hilt with security alarms!!) And a certain amount of hanging out
is to be expected when houses/apartments are small and possibly shared
Love South Berkeley
I live in the flatlands of Deep East Oakland and have NEVER seen drug
dealing, drive-bys or police cordons on our block or on the surrounding
blocks. General neighborhood reputations are not entirely accurate, you
really have to do a bunch of research about a place to best determine what
it would really be like for you to live there. And, of course, places can
change with time.
Happy Avenues Dweller
You can easily find out how safe various areas in Berkeley are. Simply go to
the Berkeley City website, Community Crime View page.
Follow the directions, that include typing in an address or just the street &
cross street. You'll learn exactly what the crime is in an area. Good luck
with your move.
Late last winter, friends of mine who live in North Oakland very close to
the South Berkeley border were babysitting for other friends' two young
kids (1.5 and 5 at the time)on a weekday afternoon. They took them to a
park right on the Berkeley border (Bushrod?) and were robbed at gunpoint.
It was a terrifying experience: the man with the gun even threatened
outright to ''Smoke'' the ''whole family.'' Luckily, they were able to
get away relatively unscathed. I believe they were later told that there
is considerable rivalry among South Berkeley and North Oakland gangs, and
that the perpetrators had perhaps come from Berkeley, scoping out the
I wanted to reply to the question as to whether South Berkeley is safe. Last winter, a
couple babysitting two kids were held up at gunpoint in S. Berkeley/N. Oakland at
Dover St Park on 57th and Dover in North Oakland and, being a part of that community,
shocked us all. Things like that do not happen very often
around here, but I will say that what it did do was to organize our community into
action. That incident prompted the neighborhood to begin having monthly meetings at
the park, lobbying for more police interaction
and protection, and started a connection between neighbors that has had a huge impact
on our neighborhood and the issues we are addressing. We live here with our two kids,
and love our house, our neighbors, the location and feel safe. But stuff happens
everywhere and that is why we are working hard to make sure our neighborhood stays
safe and friendly. Email me if you have questions.
this page was last updated: Jul 3, 2014
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